John Marotte had hit a new low. After years of climbing the corporate ladder, he was suddenly out of a job.
Marotte should have been savoring his newfound success. He had created a groundbreaking information technology system for his employer in the healthcare sector, and that system was the main draw for a large conglomerate looking to purchase the company. But when his employer moved forward with the multimillion-dollar sale, Marotte says, “the first thing they did was get rid of all the upper management, so I was out of a job.”
Despite years of experience — and countless hours teaching himself the ins and outs of IT from borrowed textbooks — Marotte learned that his reputation as a hard worker with technical savvy wasn’t going to cut it in the current job market. He lacked a major credential: a bachelor’s degree.
“Even though I had accomplished these big things, I didn’t have any certifications or education. I had a GED,” Marotte says. As the rejections piled up, he realized he needed to take a big step to move his career forward. He needed to go back to school.
Marotte is no stranger to life’s twists and turns. He dropped out of high school at 15; his wife dropped out at 16. “We’ve gone through life without an education,” he says. “You work in those hourly jobs with as much overtime as you could grab to be able to have anything.”
After a brief stint in construction, then-17-year-old Marotte served in the military for eight years. The experience opened his eyes to a sea of new possibilities. “I saw that the world is whole lot bigger than Rhode Island and construction,” he says. He and his wife also welcomed their first of two children, and any notions of continuing his education were temporarily pushed aside.
“I got a job loading paper in the slot machines just to get my foot in the door.”
Marotte eventually found his way into the healthcare sector, but after losing his IT job and struggling to find work, it was finally time to pursue a lifelong dream. With an unemployment stipend to assist with the cost, Marotte enrolled in an analytics certificate program at Bryant.
“[The program] was online, but I had to visit the campus to get the information and get it approved, and I really liked it,” he says. He made the trip on a beautiful spring day: campus blooming with flowers, fountains cascading over the pond, students lounging on the grass. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is amazing,’” Marotte recalls. “This is what I missed out on.”
Marotte’s certificate was just the beginning. Using military benefits, he received approval for an undergraduate program and, at 41, enrolled at Rhode Island College. To support his family, he worked an entry-level position at IGT at Twin River Casino.
“I got a job loading paper in the slot machines just to get my foot in the door,” he says.
Then, life pitched another curveball. Marotte was diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer and underwent surgery and radiation to treat it. But he refused to let his health stand in the way of his future. He cobbled together full-time work on swing shifts to accommodate his school schedule, his cancer treatments, and his family life.
“It was very difficult, but within that first year, I was able to move up twice at IGT,” Marotte says. By his senior year, he was approached by Bally’s Corporation, which owns Twin River, and accepted an IT position in the interactive gaming department. “The degree and the education certainly helped me,” he acknowledges.
But Marotte knew this wasn’t the end of the road. “Four years ago, getting a bachelor’s degree was great,” he explains. “When I finally reached that four-year mark, I realized I needed further education to do what I wanted to be successful.” Without a second thought, Marotte employed his military benefits to enroll in Bryant’s One-Year MBA program in the fall of 2022.
“Bryant is the first place I came,” Marotte says. He was always envious of his high school classmates who attended Bryant. “They went on to become big things in life,” he recalls. “I knew that this was going to be good for me.”
Marotte’s academic journey hasn’t been easy.
“My beard was jet black when I started,” he jokes, pointing at his chin, now flecked with gray. Despite balancing his schedule at Bally’s and his full-time workload at Bryant, he’s confident the MBA will be worth the effort. And he’s received support along the way.
“It’s like there are no obstacles for me, even though I’m facing this new challenge.”
One facet of that support is Bryant’s Academic Center for Excellence (ACE), a resource for students in need of assistance or accessibility services. Since undergoing radiation therapy, Marotte has struggled with cognitive challenges. With a rigorous curriculum ahead, he recognized he needed accommodation, such as extra time on exams, to thrive in the program.
“They’ve all been understanding,” he says of the ACE administration and his professors. “It’s like there are no obstacles for me, even though I’m facing this new challenge.”
Marotte is also encouraged by his classmates — most of whom are half his age. He already envisions them as future colleagues and business partners, resources he will connect with well after graduation.
“They’re amazing young people. I’m learning a lot from them personally and as a student as well,” he says. “I have lot more hope for this world looking at that generation. They’re going to be making the biggest differences.”
When reflecting on his decision to return to school later in life and pursue his MBA, Marotte affirms that this was always the right choice. “There are really no excuses for me, other than giving up my time,” he says. “I know it will pay off in the end.”
Marotte acknowledges his journey would not have been possible without the support of his wife. “Her amazing encouragement is the key factor behind my past and future successes,” he says.
Another key motivator? His two children. “I wanted to show my kids that even at my age they could do it,” he says. “That piece of paper — I understand the value more than anyone else. I’ve been in a place where I’ve been looked at differently. I never want to feel that again.”